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Could've been better... - 60%

Goldblaze, June 18th, 2013

Being the sixth Skyclad album, the fact that it's the first average one is no big deal. The one that came before it, "The Silent Whales Of Lunar Sea", was already filler-ridden, but the remaining material (the good songs) was really really cool. This album suffers the same fate, albeit with somewhat more fillers. Some would say 'Clad had fillers on every album, but I beg to differ. The first four were top-notch without actual fillers, even if you liked some songs more than the others (who doesn't, it's a perfectly normal thing to prefer). This band being one of my favorite bands has nothing to do with the amount of fillers, but with quality of the actually good material. And in that department, Skyclad delivers with no competition. I have never heard of any other band delivering quality material with the force of a jackhammer, and yet having some abortions on every album past "Prince Of The Poverty Line" which prevent them from being on par with the first four. Maybe Judas Priest though...

The album opens in maybe the silliest fashion you could imagine. "Inequality Street" is one of my favorite songs in the world, with one of the best lyrics in the world, with one of the craziest hooks in the world. Seriously, mrs. Biddle should get a fucking ton of recognition for her work with Skyclad, and I am not sure who penned that melody, whether it was Ramsey or her, but it's pure genius. But the first few seconds consists of Martin singing the chorus a-capella, which is a very, very strange and risky thing to do in this music genre. Partly because metal was always about music primarily, or maybe because you would need some true vocal skills to pull it off, but a-capella is not something commonly heard in metal. This however, is the reason I worship Martin Walkyier as one of the greatest musicians I've heard of. Only him and this band of weirdos could pull it off. This is so good it needs to be heard. Of course, a Skyclad song is not a Skyclad song without the ever-charming lyrics pro-working class which I can't help but agree on:

Here's a real beggars banquet, a brace of rats in a blood stained blanket.
Meanwhile gentlefolk high in their chateau, dip silver spoons into black forest gateau.
Come lords and ladies - raise glasses in toast, to the "other-half" dying to eat.
'Cause they who receive least deserve it the most,it's a literal dead-end... inequality street.

Seriously, fuck you politicians and fuck you rich garbage putting down the working class. Who the fuck would make the country up and running if not them?

Of course, herein lies maybe the biggest reason I consider this album average. After a song like the opener, what could possibly top it? Well, "Wrong Song" doesn't do the work, but it is a nice song. It has a large rocking vibe, and a great solo. "Penny Dreadful" is also another Skyclad classic with another set of crazy violin melodies and crazy lyrics about what we metalheads consider the ultimate truth about our music – it's not made to sell big numbers, it's meant from the people for the people who enjoy it and understand it. "No Deposit, No Return" is a balladic track that I've always had a certain charm for, and "History Lessens" rocks in a similar vein to "Wrong Song", albeit not that intensive.

And that's more or less it. The other songs which I haven't mentioned are pretty much fillers in one way or another. I will not specifically call them out like I usually do, but they aren't as good as these five. Had this been an EP with these songs, it would've easily earn the rating of 90-95. But as it is, they are still here and this album is still a full-length. Now, the filler songs aren't really bad, they just feel like a huge letdown. After a standard set by "Inequality Street", "Penny Dreadful" and the other three (but those two primarily), it just feels dull. It's a good listen from time to time but I guarantee you won't be coming back to them as often as you will to the two champion tracks. If you want some more detailed description, I can say that for example, "Snake Charming" has a really drawn out chorus, and somewhat uninspired riff, while "Sinful Ensemble" tries to be a dark and brooding track but ends up like a plodding number. Also, "I Dubious" could be good, but nothing apart from the chorus is particularly memorable about it. "Sabre Dance" is useless and unnecessary, and a lot of bands (particularly those in the neo-classical niche) have already covered it either directly, or they have disguised it as one of their solos.

For Skyclad standards, this is an average attempt, but five songs are worth both your time and money. The filler material isn't overtly bad, and you may even like some of those tracks more than I did. In conclusion, it's probably the worst album by Skyclad. And it's worth sixty percent. Go figure.

Skyclad's Most Overrated - 66%

Sean16, April 23rd, 2009

I don’t like this album.

Of course, it has its moments of brilliance. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the comparison to its top-notch predecessor The Silent Whales of Lunar Sea is just too tempting, a comparison making it appear like little more than a weak sequel. Still, something is lacking. Passion. We’re Skyclad; let’s just sit down, and write some more songs. When we got enough of them, we’ll release our sixth album in sixth years.

This isn’t the only dull album from the British band. Though, if The Answer Machine might fall into this category as well songs like The Thread of Evermore, Catherine at the Wheel or Isle of Jura are obvious signs that latter album is carefully designed to be of a quieter, more melody-oriented approach – then it’s up to the listener to decide whether (s)he likes the shift or not. Here it’s dubious how much this work was supposed to sound purposely soft. If there are slow songs there is no genuine ballad, no predominantly acoustic track before the final one. Martin Walkyier’s voice has indeed become cleaner, but it’s been more a continuous evolution than anything else, and said evolution won’t prevent the last Walkyier-era albums from sounding heavier again.

Granted, there is this killer a capella opening leading to another of those immortal Skyclad anthems, Inequality Street. It’s amazing how even on its poorest outputs this act still manages to craft such lively and dead-on-the-spot first tracks. Granted, there’s the folk fest of Penny Dreadful, its crazy violin and lyrics about what we metalheads all love to despise, today’s music industry. Granted, there is another couple of more than decent tracks: No Deposit, No Return is a mid-paced, highly rhythmical song with a sweet melancholy vibe (though there’s too much electric guitar to call it a true ballad); I Dubious is a short grenade only waiting for the end of the as gentle as unexpected piano intro to explode – before vanishing almost as quickly, on another incredible chorus. The Wrong Song is the pretty standard bouncy, punchy Skyclad track you’ll find on every album, magnified by a very solid solo. This one may even feature the most aggressive vocals of the whole release but, don’t get me wrong – Martin, you’re out of tune, aren’t you?

That’s about half of the album. Strong classic Skyclad, the usual mix of folk melodies with metal heaviness, great bitterly critical lyrics, and musical variety. Now how much would it cost to admit once and for all the other half is, at best sub par, at worst totally disposable? I’ll forgive Snake Charming as, though it might show one of those annoying choruses which will surface again in The Answer Machine, though the drumming lines – who knows why – really get on my nerves, on the other hand the... snaky, creepy violin of the middle section is pure genius. My Mother in Darkness and History Lessens are cheap patchworks where folk and metal elements don’t mix as well as usual, leaving a nasty feeling of carelessness and incompleteness. The Sinful Ensemble and Science Never Sleeps are completely unimaginative tracks (both boasting incredibly flat vocal lines and riffs) the guys must have thought they could improve by more or less awkwardly sticking a couple of extra instruments and orchestrations in the background. You fool no one.

Further, one can only thank Skyclad for featuring so few instrumental tracks amongst their otherwise well-furnished discography, given the overall quality of those. If it may sound at first pretty cool to hear the guys jamming around a classical piece of work, that’s a charm which nonetheless vanishes quickly, and the interest of Sabre Dance with it. Coming to The Spiral Starecase I highly suspect Georgie Biddle to have suffered from a really bad hangover the day she recorded it, as never had her violin lines sounded so tired, repetitive and sleep-inducing. But wait, they just have left the worst of the worst for the end, the splendid five-minutes-long piece of jelly called Quantity Time. It must have been the whole band, vocalist included, which suffered from a hell of a hangover that time, unless they mistakenly recorded the track at half its initial tempo, who knows. In any case it’s atrocious.

Skyclad, then at the top of their productivity boost – and the Gods know for this band this means a lot – released two albums in that year 1996. Combining the best tracks of both could have eventually lead to their ultimate masterpiece we’ve all been dreaming of, but which is still waiting for its definitive incarnation. Besides, of the two the superfluous album isn’t what you may think. It’s Irrational Anthems.

Highlights: Inequality Street, Penny Dreadful, I Dubious

Contains some real Skyclad anthems - 85%

morbert, October 10th, 2007

One of my favourite albums since it holds a few of my favorite Skyclad songs. Skyclad had previously released an album, “The Silent Whales of Lunar Sea”, on which the balance had somewhat shifted towards metal with folk influences instead of folk-metal. The songs on that particular album were in fact good, but on ‘Irrational Anthems’ the balance was there again.

The best songs presented here is the holy quartet ‘Inequality Street’, ‘Penny Dreadful’, ‘No Deposit, No Return’ and ‘History Lessons’ which all three have marvellous lyrics, are very compact, have extremely good choruses and combine folk and metal in the most natural way.

These four songs alone are reason enough already to get this album if you like folkrock and folkmetal. Not that I’m saying all the other songs are bad. Not at all. These four however are by far the best. The folkmetal interpretation of the Aram Khachaturian compositon ‘Sabre Dance’ is entertaining although I do prefer the Toy Dolls version (Wakey Wakey 1989) over this one.

However, because not all songs share the same level of quality, I must be honest in my judgement. The earlier mentioned 4 songs would easily get 95 to 99 points but the album as a whole would ‘only’ get 85 points from me.

Skyclad's best offering - 98%

Muloc7253, July 21st, 2007

I've been a Skyclad fan for some good few years now, and after hearing near enough everything (including the Clan Destined demo, which had Walkrier on vocals) I have to say this is definately their most greatest offering. First of all, any Sabbat-type sound their older albums might have had are gone now, this is barely even thrashy anymore, sounding more of a blend of British folk music and modern heavy metal. Infact, there's much less folk parts on this too, besides the violin and the occasional melody.

Also, this has basically all of Skyclad's best songs...Inequality Street, Penny Dreadful, No Deposit, I Dubious, Science Never Sleeps, History Lessens etc etc. Not only that, but Walkyrier's mind-blowing lyrics (he really has to be the best metal lyricist of all time) are at their very best here. Really well written stuff like 'a simple matter of heads and tails/its their coin so they can choose/breed a beast with two of each/so in the end they cannot lose' (Science Never Sleeps) and 'now dont get CROSS/dont bite your NAILS/oh son of man your missions failed' (The Sinful Ensemble).

Everyone is at their prime here - the riffs are brilliant and heavy, the violin is just as high calibur as ever, as are the actual guitar solos, the production is fantastic and Walkier's vocals are just as harsh (yet desipherable) as ever. Other reviews described this as 'experimental' but I don't really see how.

In short, this is the best album from what is probably the best metal band of the 90's.

Skyclad Experiments A Little, But Still Very Good! - 90%

lordmaltreas, November 28th, 2006

Skyclad decided to take a more melodic and experimental approach; certainly not a bad thing, this album is rather enjoyable. For the most part, the folk music is still intact, and there are bits of thrash here and there. No, this isn't anything like their very early records, and it has more of a radio quality.

There are some hits and misses on the album, and what you might have thought was a miss at first might suddenly turn out to be a major hit. This occurred alot during my first spin, and those who might have been told this album lacks what the others had, should just give it another listen.

There is a great deal of experimenting here; take the song "science never sleeps" as a very good example of this. I also found it quite interesting that there were two instrumental tracks on this album, one being light and the other heavy. The main point is that the experimenting makes you want to listen to the album a bit more, if you're into experimentation, of course. If not, you may want to stick with the older material. Regardless; Skyclad has always done some experimenting, and in this album it seems they were at their strongest.

If you're a fan of the other records, and haven't heard this one, give it a try. Ignore all the talk until you've heard it yourself. You might find it a real gem.